Illusions and visual special effects – explanations and tutorials

Optical Illusions

Doggendorff and Moggendorff Illusions

December 8th, 2009 by david

Moggendorff and Doggendorff versions of the Poggendorff illusion

Here are a couple more variants of the Poggendorff illusion (mog, or moggy, by the way, is a term of endearment for a cat in UK English, but I’m not sure it’ll be familiar if your background is in American English). The symmetry axes of the dog and cat heads are objectively aligned, but to my eye appear displaced in much the way that the (objectively aligned) test line appears to be in classic versions of the illusion (as in pale blue, to the left).

I’ve added the blobs to the dog version, and the pigeons to the cat figure, because I have the impression that they make the illusion a little stronger. However, I haven’t tested that experimentally with these figures.  It’s also interesting to try deleting the images progressively, to see how much can be deleted before the illusion vanishes. Maybe there are conventional Poggendorff figure elements embedded in these figures in a way I haven’t realised.

For example, it’s well established that the illusion can arise when the usual line elements are reduced just to dots, (the dot version that might apply here is Stanley Coren’s – scroll down that link to view it). It would be possible to selectively erase the figures here until just dots were left. But reduced to dots the illusion is very weak, and here it looks quite robust to me.

I think it is the symmetry axes that are taking the place of the usual test lines here.  For me, that makes it that much more likely that the illusion arises because of two dimensional pattern elements.  (However, many specialists don’t agree, and attribute the illusion to attempts by the brain to interpret Poggendorff figures as arrays of lines in depth).

I have a special interest in this illusion, and you’ll find stacks more on it by clicking on the Poggendorff illusion category, in the categories list to the right.  I have ideas about what I think might be going on – but actually, I don’t rate them all that highly. Sometimes in science, when a problem resists progress for a very long time, (over a century in the case of this illusion), so that there are all sorts of ingenious competing explanations, it’s a sign that something is going on that nobody’s even begun to imagine.  I think that could well be the case with Poggendorff.

2 Responses

  1. Akshay Says:

    I have been reading your articles and quite frankly want to thank you so much for your help.
    I am really interested in illusions and I have been doing internet research on these so that I can make illusions my self.
    But I am not able to understand The Doggendorff and Moggendorff Illusions and what’s the reason behind it. I am really looking forward for your help on this and some suggestions on how to make illusions myself.
    Thank you so much for such a great article and equally great website.

  2. david Says:

    If I’m right about the Doggendorff and Moggendorff illusions, they show the same effect as the one we see in the illusion called the Poggendorff without parallels – but with the symmetry axes of the dog and cat heads as the features we see misaligned, instead of real line segments. But I’m not sure I am right. It could be that other features than the symmetry axes are in play. The dog heads seem to me more misaligned than the cat heads, and I’m not sure why they should. But this is a tricky illusion if you are fairly new to the subject. For brilliant demos of lots of more vivid illusions check out Michael Bach’s site, http://www.michaelbach.de/ot/
    David

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